Spieth, Stenson poised to duel for FedEx Cup

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2015, 9:54 pm

ATLANTA – On cue the competition has cut through all of the FedEx Cup confusion.

As they seem to each year at East Lake, the players have provided the competitive clarity endless projections never could. Forget the algorithms and complicated calculations, the Tour Championship has come down to a straightforward shootout – no slide rules or spreadsheets needed.

If the skies clear long enough on Sunday after two days of nearly nonstop rain the season-long race for the FedEx Cup will be decided with a single 18-hole showdown between Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson.

Oh sure, Paul Casey looming in third place could muddy the mathematical waters, but the Englishman stands as the exception to what is shaping up to be the rule.

In simplest and often repeated terms, Spieth and Stenson – who will head out again on Sunday paired together – control their own as well as the FedEx Cup destiny at Nos. 2 and 4, respectively, on the points list.

“This is how Bobby Jones would have wanted it here,” said Spieth, who rallied from three strokes back to begin his soggy Saturday to overtake Stenson atop the leaderboard with a third-round 68.

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Spieth was referring to the conditions, which have been monsoon-like for the better part of two days, but East Lake’s most famous member also would have liked Sunday’s simplicity, as well as how the 54-hole front-runner arrived at his perch.

It was signature Spieth, scrambling for par when things didn’t go his way and rolling in a few miles of putts at the crucial moments, like his effort at the par-4 16th hole. That's where he charged in a 22-footer for par followed by the walk-off at No. 18 for birdie to wrest the lead from Stenson, who will begin Sunday’s conclusion one shot back.

“That was a tap-in, comparing it to the one he made on 16,” Stenson said when asked about Spieth’s putt at the last. “I was looking at the board [at No. 16] when he’s putting there and it said 20 to 25 feet, he’s making 24 percent and I thought, well it feels like it’s a bigger chance than 24 percent and he just rolled it right in the middle.”

The percentages of a clear-cut, non-controversial champion on Sunday are also much better than they may have appeared just a few days ago.

Both Spieth and Stenson can claim the FedEx Cup with a victory, regardless of how the rest of the decimal points play.

By comparison, a Casey victory could lead to mass confusion, with the Englishman claiming the big payday if Stenson finishes outside the top three, and Spieth slips outside the top five, and Jason Day, who began the week atop the points list, fades beyond the top 13, and ... well, you get the idea.

It was a reality that even Casey embraced.

“A five-year exemption and winner of the Tour Championship, some free Coca-Cola, it would all be nice,” Casey said. “I would love to stir the pot a little bit, get up there, win that, get in the clubhouse on a score they can’t reach and then let the guys battle for the big prize [FedEx Cup].”

For Spieth, who struggled to begin the playoffs with back-to-back missed cuts for the first time in his PGA Tour career, a victory would also quiet an equally confusing conversation regarding the Player of the Year Award.

Although the 22-year-old seemed to have locked up the Jack Nicklaus Award with his performance in this year’s majors, a run that included victories at the Masters and U.S. Open along with a runner-up showing at the PGA Championship and a spot just outside the playoff at St. Andrews, Day’s torrid run through the playoffs caused some voters, the players, to reconsider their options.

But a victory at East Lake would give anyone with doubts 10 million reasons to ship the Player of the Year hardware to Dallas, attention: Spieth, Jordan.

Yet while the electorate may need further clarity – and, to be clear, Day needed to win the FedEx Cup to be considered a true rival to Spieth in the Player of the Year race – Spieth wasn’t spending much energy on the topic.

“I don’t think I need tomorrow,” Spieth said. “No matter what, it’s a dream-come-true season. Two majors, a couple other wins, and what we have been able to do consistently this year, that’s a huge step up from anything I’ve ever done.”

There was also the issue of Spieth’s opponent, Stenson, in his Sunday singles match.

The “Iceman” gave little early on Saturday, playing his opening nine in even par to extend his lead to four strokes, but he made bogey at the 10th hole after missing the green with his approach shot and another at No. 11 when he three-putted and his lead was narrowed to a stroke.

Stenson added his fourth bogey of the day at the penultimate hole to square the proceedings and Spieth pulled ahead with his birdie at the last, but given the Swede’s history at East Lake one shouldn’t expect that kind of charity on Sunday.

In seven rounds on the Donald Ross-turned-Rees Jones-designed layout Stenson is a combined 20 under par, and he won the finale in 2013 by three strokes in a similar shootout.

“It’s all going to be decided tomorrow,” Stenson said.

Even better news for those who have become numb to the endless parade of projections it’s going to be decided in the simplest of terms – winner take all.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.